Separation Training for Puppies and Adult Dogs

Separation Training for Puppies and Adult Dogs

Hi everyone! This video is on the topic
of separation training for young puppies and adult dogs. Now the way that I like
to approach separation training is teaching the dog what I do want him to
do when being left alone and leave very little room for error or variation of
their behavior. So the way that I’m going to approach it is to teach the dog to
think to go and settle and take a nap in his bed.
You can also along with this training teach your dog to play with toys on his
own and chew on bones on his own and then in the pen that you leave your dog
you can leave bones and chews so they can have a choice of whether they want
to take a nap or play with their toys but with the initial training I like to
focus on teaching the dog that when he’s having time separated from you it’s time
to relax and take a nap. This training plan of teaching the dog exactly what
you do want him to do leaves little room for error and will make the dog less
likely to vocalize, use his bed as a chew toy, learn to put his feet up or try to
dig and bite at the enclosure. All of these are natural behaviors a dog might
offer without any training when being put behind a barrier. Oftentimes trainers
will simply put a dog in a pen and suggest ignoring the behaviors you
dislike, however this can cause an extinction burst where the dog can
become frustrated, the behaviors can become more intense and the dog’s
behavior and emotions can begin to vary. This is not the best plan to teach a dog
to be calm and enjoy being left alone. The best plan is reinforcing the behaviors
you do want your dog to do. Step 1 Reinforce a settle and calmness around
food. By reinforcing a settle and calmness around food first it will make it
easier for the dog to be calm and relaxed during the separation training.
It will make it easier to add duration as well as your movement away from the
dog. Without prior training the dog might be excited, confused or frustrated by
receiving a piece of food from someone who then walks off with the food while
he is behind a barrier. To train the settle and calmness around
food, wear your treat bag around the house or have treats in jars in
different rooms and when you see your dog relax and settle on the floor, not
thinking about the food, calmly walk over and drop a treat between your dog’s paws
or use a calm marker like ‘Good’ and then deliver the treat slowly to the dog. It
might take a couple of days before your dog can truly relax around the food on
the counters and the food in your bait bag but if your dog is having trouble
with this you can use low value treats at first to do this training. You want to
get to the point where you can drop a treat for your dog between his paws and
move away and your dog doesn’t think to pop up and follow you. You also want to
make sure that your dog looks relaxed, that his muscles are relaxed and that he
has a soft expression on his face. Step 2 Teach the dog to go to his bed and go in
his crate. By teaching and reinforcing your dog for going to his bed this will
make the bed a visual cue for the dog to move toward and relax on one left alone
in the future. You can work on teaching the dog to go to his bed and go in his
crate as you work on Step 1 by practicing them at different times
during the day. Check out the written description below for full tutorials on
how to teach your dog to go to his bed as well as how to teach your dog to go
in his crate. I suggest first working on teaching your
dog to go to his bed and then putting the bed inside the crate. To create
clarity I suggest having a cue to tell your dog to go into the crate as well as
a cue to tell your dog when it’s time to come out of the crate. “All done. Good boy”
Step 3 Add duration while next to the pen or crate. Now you can practice the
settle in the bed while inside the pen or crate. If you have a pen like this one
you can sit in the pen with your dog if you have a dog that you think might
whine if you’re on the outside of the pen and work on the duration of the
settle in the bed while in the pen. Now you can use a book or a phone to
entertain yourself and when you see your dog looking relaxed and all sleepy
you can mark by saying “Good” and then reinforce with the treat or simply
calmly move and feed your dog a treat and the slower you move your hand the
calmer he’s going to be rather than if I say “GOOD!! Here you go boy!!! yeah good job! Nice settle!” “Sorry Halo…” You can practice this
exercise while in the living room watching TV or working on your computer.
If you have a puppy that whines or barks or panics when you walk away from them
while they’re in a pen I suggest setting up the pen and sitting next to the pen
just out of reach so they can’t bite you or mouth at your clothing through the
pen and then when you see your puppy settle you can reinforce your puppy by
either slowly dropping a treat between their paws or dropping it from above. But
it’s a lot calmer if you go very slowly like that. Step 4 Add movement away from
the enclosure By reinforcing the dog for relaxing behind the barrier when you
move around the room it will help teach him the concept of relaxing when
something stimulating is going on that he can’t reach. This is a great exercise
for all dogs especially those that can get easily aroused or frustrated when
they cannot reach what they want to interact with. This step will also help
teach a dog to relax when you walk out a door and he cannot come with you. At
first move slowly and calmly while near the pen or crate and mark and reinforce
your dog for relaxing on his bed. You can use a clicker for this exercise if your
dog remains calm when hearing the clicker but if it excites your dog I
suggest using a calm marker word like “Good” before then moving slowly to drop a
treat between your dog’s paws. You can practice moving around the room sitting
on different pieces of furniture, talking to family members, interacting
with different objects in the room and then returning to reinforce your dog.
Every once in a while you can go and stand next to the crate and release
your dog calmly from the crate. I don’t suggest releasing your dog from the
crates when you’re at a distance and that you always release your dog from
the crate when you’re standing right next to it in a very neutral boring
manner. What to do if your dog gets up or starts to do a behavior that you don’t
want him to. I suggest that if you’re doing a training session and your dog
gets up and puts his paws up on the barrier or starts whining and barking I
don’t suggest that you should assume that if you ignore the dog that they’ll
stop doing it and think to relax and be calm in their pen. Instead I would
quickly interrupt that behavior and then lower criteria so that it’s easier for
the dog and that the dog doesn’t start to think to start offering those
behaviors when he doesn’t know what to do. Another problem with ignoring unwanted behavior and then reinforcing the
behavior you do want is that you can sometimes create a behavior chain where
the dog first offers the behavior you don’t like before they offer the
behavior that you do want. If your dog gets up to follow you and he doesn’t yet
know to offer the behavior of going back in the crate, you can lure your dog into
the down position and then drastically reduce criteria. So if you took 20 steps
away from your dog and that made him get up just take a couple of steps away from
your dog and reinforce your dog to get him back to the point where he’s feeling
comfortable and relaxed being in the crate while you move away. Another
technique you can use if the dog gets out of the crate to follow you is to
stand or sit next to the crate and see if the dog offers going back inside the
crate to begin the training game again. Once your dog is successful with the
door open you can practice with the door closed. If at any point the dog gets up
or looks worried and wants to come out of the crate or pen you can either open
the door calmly or open the door and go and sit in the pen with the dog
so that he can calm down and realize that he’s not trapped inside the pen. To
make it easier for the dog when you’re first working on the noises of the door
opening and closing you can be in the pen with your dog or have your dog on
the outside of the pen so the dog doesn’t suddenly feel trapped when he’s
seeing the door open and close for the first few times. Every time the door
makes a noise you can say “Good” and then go to feed your dog a treat. “Good” Step 5
Alone time. When you start leaving your dog unattended it’s important to use a
safe setup for your dog. The setup I have here could be extremely unsafe for some
dogs that might think that they could climb over the top or push the pen
around the room and perhaps chew on power cords or pull your curtains down.
So you want to make sure it’s a safe pen and for some dogs it might need to be
much taller or that it has a lid and a base so that the dog can’t get out and
that perhaps you have an extra security where you you lock it with a carabiner
or a clip. Also you might want to choose a floor like getting some linoleum from
a hardware store to put down underneath the pen in case the dog goes to the
bathroom and your floor could easily be ruined by that. If you just got a new
puppy or dog who is already comfortable with being left alone you can
immediately start leaving your dog for short periods even when you are still
working on the different steps in this tutorial. Anytime you see your dog settle
down for a nap you can encourage your dog to go in his pen then you can sit
with him until he falls asleep. Then when you hear your dog wake up and start to
move around you can calmly let the dog out of the pen. If you have a dog with
separation anxiety or you’re not sure whether he will panic when he wakes up
you can leave the door to the pen open. To transition to leaving your dog in the
whole house first leave the dog in a pen and when he has stopped chewing on
inappropriate things and doing undesirable behaviors when you’re home
watching him you can then transition to a room and then to the whole house. When
you change the picture go back to leaving the dog
for short periods at first and be home to monitor his behavior.
Some dogs will do better with being left in one room rather than in the whole
house if for example there is a place in the house where the dog might sit and
bark it noises or sights outside. I like to create a leaving ritual with my own
dogs. I send them all to their beds I give everyone a treat and then I wave
and say “See you later guys” and then I walk through the door and close it. Now
the great thing about doing this during the training sessions and when I have to
leave my dogs when I have to leave the house is that it teaches the dogs that
when I do this behavior it means to relax and take a nap so if I need to use
it in other situations like I need to leave them in the car briefly or I’m
staying at someone else’s house and I need to leave them there briefly that
it’s the same behavior that is at home. When leaving your dog for the first few
times I suggest using a video camera or putting music on and being home so that
if the dog starts to worry you can return and then go back a step in the
training plan. When raising criteria you want to make sure that you’re not
predictably making things harder and harder for the dog. So if you’ve left
your dog for longer than you’ve ever left him before then the next time that
you leave your dog I suggest leaving your dog for an extremely short period
of time. If you have a dog that gets overexcited by greeting you when you
return you can change the picture by making your homecoming about going out
to the bathroom or receiving a treat instead of a greeting. Then 10 minutes
later after your dog has had a chance to calm down, you can then greet your dog as
you would have when you got home. “You guys need to go to the toilet? Halo,
this way.” To set your dog up for success provide enough physical and mental
stimulation before leaving such as walking and playing a training game. A
small pen or crate is not a long-term solution for leaving a dog for extended
periods of time. The end goal is having the dog loose in a room
or loose in the house where he can move around and make choices throughout the
day. You might need to hire a dog sitter to come and interact with your dog if
you need to work long hours. Dogs are social animals and spending too much
time alone or in a small confined area can cause behavior problems.


  1. Emily, would you consider working with me to help my Lab with her neuroses? Separation anxiety is her biggest issue. She’s also bossy with me, but can be easy for others. She’s got other issues, like floor fears, and anxiety at farmers markets, where she displays submissive behavior (not aggressively). Mostly, I’d like to leave the house without her a couple of times a week. I can’t leave her because she barks nonstop when I do.
    I know you gave me a list of local trainers, but I like your training approach.
    Thank you.

  2. Very enjoyable and informative. It was rather nice how fast crate training got my collie to be calm while in there. Now at night when its bed time as soon as I start to pick her up she immediately gets up on her own accord and walks right in and lays down.

  3. Question: love the method to avoid barrier frustration but realistically how are you concurrently house training (crate training) a new 8-10 week old puppy? It’s one thing for us as professionals to take time off and spend a week acclimating our dog or puppy to being behind a gate or crate but as I’m sure you’re aware most “regular“ puppy owners can’t take that sort of time off and need to begin using the crate immediately. What do you do when you are thus training to antithetical scenarios at the same time? I ask this genuinely because I am old and there are likely new techniques that pop up that I may not know. I think the sign of any good trainer is to always know that we don’t know it all!

  4. Thank you for this! I have a 10 month old pup that hates being alone and I will definitely try this! Better slow and steady than to force anything

  5. i trained my dog just like this when she was a little puppy. it was a relatively fast process and there was no difficulty. great tutorial!

    edit: some dogs like to have blankets over their crate and generally to have their crate in a corner where they feel safe and are not going to be bothered by people walking by etc. my dog fell asleep faster and went to her crate more often when i put a blanket over it. it was like a little cave, and it's still her favorite spot in the house, we just never close the crate now

  6. Thanks for posting another fantastic tutorial. Your commitment, time, dedication, enthusiasm is very much appreciated & exceedingly valuable. I think it’s wonderful to see a growing number of thumbs up on your dog welfare tutorials.

    My next step is to try to learn how I can cope with separation from my beautiful Cavalier Queen Charles!!!

    Absolutely love all what you do. Thank you so much.

  7. Thank you, Emily. I lost my heart dog a few weeks ago and while I am nowhere near ready to think about adding another companion, watching this video helps me to see that some of the things I find daunting (like the skills you demonstrated here) can be managed.

    Would the same or similar process work on an older dog who was adopted ?

  8. Great Video, Emily!! I try and sneak my keys into my pocket before she knows I’m going so she doesn’t hear the jingle.
    Basically sneak out while she’s busy with a Kong. Lol.

  9. Thank you for this tutorial.
    We understand better and better
    the importance of the first week at home.
    ( We also like the joking part).

  10. Great video as always !
    It’s very useful for me as we are going to be fostering a dog very soon, an 18 month-old dog that has always lived outside (i live in Romania where there are many strays, but I am a French vet student aha). I am a bit worried about leaving him alone…
    My dog is totally fine left alone, leaving her a lot of chew toys really helped with her training. Now when alone she sleeps and plays a little with her toys (I walk her right before I leave the house).
    We were thinking to put the foster dog in a bedroom with the door closed (is a baby gate a better option ?) and put my dog in my bedroom in the opposite side of the apartment.
    When do you know you can leave your dogs alone together in the same room ?
    Thanks for your suggestions!
    Ps: I see Wish has a cool pen, is it because it reassures her to have a roof and her own personal space ?

  11. Extraordinary Work, I totally liked it!, See this New Album 'Monish Jasbird – Death Blow', channel link , you may like it 🙂

  12. Do you think you make a video for dogs who get overexcited when brought to new places, or just ones who become over aroused when going on general walks?

  13. This is the best video about this topic that I encountered so far. I think this may work for my dog but I am also worried. My dog is 3 years old. She was fine staying in the house alone, she usually just relaxed and slept until we got back. I told her "will be back" and she would go lay down on her spot. We moved two times before, she was fine, always adjusted within 2-3 days. But this last time, we moved (changed cities this time) 3 weeks ago. (also I left the two couch we usually used at the other house, didn't get new ones yet so the room is kind of empty) I can't get out of the house since the first day! She panics, she vocalizes, she is very loud. I am worried that if I start crate training, which I never did, she might get confused? because she already actually knew how to behave? I am afraid I might encourage her vocalizing somehow if I start on any other approach. She never got treats, would she be like "Ohh, I get treats now! Let's keep up the unwanted behavior". Please help, should I try the approach on the video? I can't go out unless I am walking her :(( Also, she is a cockalier.

  14. I really appreciate the comment about how ignoring the behaviours you don't like can lead to worse behaviour. That's definitely been my experience.

  15. I love the crate, so a nice den for the dog. It has helped our dogs and us. Wish I knew what I know now years ago. Love the videos, prayers to the journey

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